UN expert criticises Special Criminal Court and Offences Against the State Act (Irish Council for Civil Liberties)

At a lecture in Dublin tonight, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Professor Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, has said that counter-terrorism laws which contravene human rights “can further entrench cycles of violence and can lead to radicalisation”.

Consistent and trenchant concerns

At the lecture, which was jointly hosted by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) and the International Network of Civil Liberties Organisations (INCLO), the Special Rapporteur made particular reference to Ireland and Northern Ireland, saying that “the Island of Ireland, more so than many parts of the world has experienced emergency law, emergency practice and the seepage of the exceptional into the ordinary in ways that has not served the rule of law nor the protection of human rights well.” She said there had been “consistent and trenchant concerns about the use of the Special Criminal Court and the Offences Against the State Act as a ‘work-around’ the ordinary protection of the law”.

A history of insufficient oversight

Professor Ní Aoláin also launched two reports by privacy rights organisations INCLO and Privacy International, both of which denounced the lack of response from Irish authorities regarding requests for information on the sharing of intelligence with other States.

Elizabeth Farries of INCLO said “In Ireland and elsewhere, there is insufficient oversight, review, and transparency to the existing agreements” citing the Department of Justice response to one such request which went: “for security reasons, it is not the practice to publicly comment on the detail of counter-terrorism arrangements. It should be noted that our history on this island means that regrettably we have been engaged in counter-terrorism work for decades”.

Sustained rights violations

Professor Ní Aoláin referenced her own decades-long academic work when she emphasised that “emergencies start off as exceptional but almost without exception experience mission creep. [They] start off a short-term, finite proposition and invariably end up being extended, in some cases as in Ireland over decades, becoming a norm both politically and legally”.

Professor Ní Aoláin emphasised that “States of emergency are synonymous with extensive and sustained human rights violations”, and that the definition of terrorism was often nebulous enough to allow targeting of legitimate dissent.

The UN expert told those present that “the poor governance that accompanies emergencies contributes to the conditions conducive to terrorism itself”.

The INCLO and Privacy International reports are:
Unanswered Questions
Secret Global Surveillance Networks


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